An Introduction to Foraging

My friend Rachel lives in London and writes the beautiful blog The Foraged Life. Today she's here with a guide to first-time foraging - perfect for spring adventures. Don't forage for food for the first time without an expert; if you can't find a local authority to work with, stick with foraging for flowers and other home decorations.

Finding food for free.

That’s the top line when it comes to foraging; it’s a nature based treasure hunt where you seek out the wild food growing in your local environment. Doesn’t matter whether that’s an urban jungle or rolling hills - with a few tools to hand, you can find all sorts of things.

There are a few reasons why I reckon this pasttime is a good one to have (if ‘nature based treasure hunt’ didn’t already make you amped). For one, it gets you outside and the benefits of fresh air on how you feel are endless. Less stressed being the main clincher for me. For two, free food! That feeling when I create something in the kitchen that I know is from my local area and took time to collect - I just love it. It’s that whole slow food thing - being there for the food journey helps me value it more. I’ve actually noticed that when I haven’t been foraging in a while my eating gets a bit out of sync. I think less often of the maker/grower of what I’m buying, or the journey my food made to get from farm to plate. After foraging, it’s like I’ve plugged back in. Connected with my environment again and what it is doing in the season I am in.

I promise it’s not just for the botanists and hippies, this foraging thing. It really is doable, and with a few of the tricks of the foraging trade you can be out stomping your area for some dinner in no time.

The most important thing to take note of when it comes to foraging is to never take and eat anything if you aren’t absolutely sure of what it is. For your first few times, go with a professional who can teach you what is safe and what isn't. There are so many doppelgangers in the plant kingdom that might be a dangerous version of what you had been looking to add to your dinner plate - make sure you err on the side of caution. If you can't find a local expert, stick with foraging flowers and other natural home decorations until you can meet up with a professional to learn more. It's still the same fun activity that will get you outdoors and finding lovely things to bring home, but without the potential risk.

I recommend you take a basket if you have one (a linen bag will do if not but keeping the plants in open air will help keep them from sweating) and some scissors, as well as wearing sturdy shoes and clothing that will protect your skin. Use the scissors so you can cut the plant and not uproot it, ensuring its sustainability. It’s also good practice to never take more than you need or completely rid a patch of wild plants; this makes foraging unsustainable, and might mean the local birds don’t get any dinner. 

Honestly, getting outdoors is always a good thing and foraging is one way you can spend your wild time. I’m no expert, but if you want to get any more info on how to get started, then drop me a line.

Enjoy your treasure hunting!